Iron House by John Hart
This rich, impressive contemporary thriller from two-time Edgar-winner Hart (The Last Child) focuses on two brothers, Michael and Julian, both raised and abused at the Iron House of the title, an orphanage in the mountains of
. As a boy, Michael flees the place and ends up on the streets of North Carolina , where Otto Kaitlin, "the most powerful crime boss in recent memory," rescues him and fashions him into an accomplished killing machine and a surrogate son. When Kaitlin dies, his real son, Stevan, fueled by a mixture of jealousy and greed, sets out to destroy everything the now grownup Michael has. Stevan kidnaps Michael's girlfriend, Elena, and threatens emotionally fragile Julian, a creative, tortured genius who is now living at the New York City mansion of his adoptive parents. Hart deftly interweaves a complex family history story with Stevan's intense, bloody quest for vengeance. Though the book occasionally feels overplotted, its powerful themes and its beautiful prose will delight Hart's fans—and should earn him many new ones. North Carolina
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Kirkus Reviews -
A bestselling novelist returns with his most ambitious book to date.
Perrotta's popular breakthrough with Little Children (2004) received additional exposure from a well-received movie adaptation, and his latest has plenty of cinematic possibility as well. The premise is as simple as it is startling (certainly for the characters involved). Without warning, the Rapture has come to pass, "the biblical prophecy came true, or at least partly true. People disappeared, millions of them at the same time, all over the world." Yet the novel's focus isn't religious, and it really doesn't concern itself with what happened or why. Instead, as the title suggests, it deals exclusively with those left behind, how they deal with something few had anticipated and fewer had expected to experience. Their world has changed irrevocably, yet in some ways it hasn't really changed all that much. Life goes on, for the living, though the missing leave huge holes in it. Some deny the religious implications, preferring to refer to the more secular "Sudden Departure"; others question why those with deep flaws had been among the elect. A group that has dubbed itself the "Guilty Remnant" bears silent witness to the world of sin while awaiting its own judgment and reward. The wife of the town's mayor leaves her home to join them, though "she hadn't been raised to believe in much of anything, except the foolishness of belief itself." Their son disappears from college to join the "Healing Hug" movement; their high-school daughter loses her bearings as the family disintegrates. The novel is filled with those who have changed their lives radically or discovered something crucial about themselves, as radical upheaval generates a variety of coping mechanisms. Though the tone is more comic than tragic, it is mainly empathic, never drawing a distinction between "good" and "bad" characters, but recognizing all as merely human—ordinary people dealing with an extraordinary situation.
There's even a happy ending of sorts, as characters adapt and keep going, fortified by the knowledge that they "were more than the sum of what had been taken from" them.
by Mira Bartok Memory Palace
This moving, compassionately candid memoir by artist and children’s book author Bartok describes a life dominated by her gifted but schizophrenic mother. Bartók and her sister, Rachel, both of whom grew up in
, are abandoned by their novelist father and go to live with their mother at their maternal grandparents’ home. By 1990, a confrontation in which her mother cuts her with broken glass leads Bartók (née Myra Herr) to change her identity and flee the woman she calls “the cry of madness in the dark.” Eventually, the estrangement leaves her mother homeless, wandering with her belongings in a knapsack, writing letters to her daughter’s post office box. Reunited 17 years later, Bartók is suffering memory loss from an accident; her mother is 80 years old and dying from stomach cancer. Only through memories do they each find solace for their collective journey. Using a mnemonic technique from the Renaissance—a memory palace—Bartók imagines, chapter by chapter, a mansion whose rooms secure the treasured moments of her reconstructed past. With a key found stashed in her mother’s knapsack, she unlocks a rental storage room filled with paintings, diaries, and photos. Bartók turns these strangely parallel narratives and overlapping wonders into a haunting, almost patchwork, narrative that lyrically chronicles a complex mother-daughter relationship. Cleveland